SEO means “Search Engine Optimization”. This is essentially the means by which search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) find your content in the myriad of websites with similar content as yours. Search engines find your content by “crawling” the web for information. But that’s a LOT of information to crawl over. Even though a Google search might return hundreds of pages of results, most people only have enough patience to last through the end of the first page of results. How often do you actually click to the second page of a Google search?
That’s why SEO is important. Everyone’s goal is to be on the FIRST page of a search engine’s results. These tips are simple steps you can take to give your blog a little nudge to rank higher in Google’s crawlers.
Note: This tutorial applies to self-hosted sites on WordPress.org, NOT WordPress.com. WordPress.com automatically optimizes SEO for you. While this is a great benefit if you use WP.com as your platform, there are a host (pun completely intended) of reasons why you should make the switch to a self-hosted site on WordPress.org. (Link to post on making switch to WP.org.)
On to the tutorial: SEO for Anyone
You will need to install just one plugin (link to post on plugins):
WordPress Yoast SEO (link to actual plugin)
This plugin adds an extra box at the bottom of your pages and posts that allows you to customize your SEO options. It will give you options to enter in a URL link if you want to change it from what it automatically entered (which is always the title of your post, or the first words of your post, depending on which you start typing first,) “Focus” keyword, SEO title, and a meta description.
The Focus keyword should be included in all aspects. The nice thing about Yoast is that you don’t have to guess whether or not you did it right. There is a color-coded check system that will give you (in ascending order from worst grade to best) a red, orange, yellow, or green dot depending on how well you have optimized your post. It also describes why it graded you with a certain color and what you can do to get your color to green.
The focus word should be in the page or post’s URL link, somewhere in the first paragraph of your content, listed in the SEO title in the box, and in the meta description.
The meta description is the description that is shown along with a link to that page or post in a search result, or when a link is posted to social media. Have you ever seen either of these examples that had a description that didn’t seem to match the title? Maybe you’ve seen something like this on Facebook when there’s a picture of a product, but the description or first part of the post was about something completely different. That’s the meta description.
By default, the meta description box is left blank. Unless you enter in what you want it to say, whichever platform the link is being posted to is going to use the very first text used in that link as the meta description. This is especially tricky when a blogger uses a story hook to make a bigger point later in the post. The picture they might use as a featured image might deal with their end point, but unless they enter a specific meta description, readers will see the first story hook part next to a picture that seem to contradict the text posted with it.
Typically, I just use either the whole title or a main word from the title, and make sure to include it (if possible) in the first paragraph of the post content, the SEO title box, and I copy and paste a snippet including the focus keyword (which can also be a short phrase – the shorter, the better) in the meta description. I should also mention that the meta box only allows a certain number of characters before going into negative numbers. It’s not quite as restrictive as a tweet because you are allowed to type more than it says it allows, but just keep in mind that any characters entered once you exceed the maximum limit will not be seen. Words or sentences may be cut off. If you have a hard time figuring out what to enter as a snippet, you can also come up with a paraphrase that includes your focus keyword and use that as meta, even if it’s not verbatim in your content.
Now that you know how it works, let’s see it in action.
Create simple tutorial using screenshots of THIS post.